Tag Archives: Listening

Message to Leaders: Speak with Conviction…Listen With Intention

2-ears-1-mouthEvery now and then, I like to write about communication. There are a couple of reasons for that. The first is that the language we use has a lot to do with how others regard us. And, in leadership, how we are regarded has a lot to do with the decisions people make about trusting us…or not.

The second reason is that the ease at which things get done in any organization often comes down to our ability to send and receive clear messages.

Like leadership, communication is a complex subject so I’m not going to try and simplify it. Nor do I have a list of do’s and don’ts that will cure our respective communication ills.

I have just two thoughts to share today.

One is: If you want people to believe in you and in what you say, speaking clearly and with conviction is a good place to start.

Language has always been littered with jargon. As English is the only language in which I have any facility, I’m going to say that English is probably one of the worst offenders. Over the past several years though, we have become even sloppier about how we choose to express ourselves. We punctuate our sentences with a series of ‘likes’ and ‘okays’ that muddy our messages. And, we have developed an annoying habit of turning statements into questions. This latter habit is particularly troublesome and serves to invite uncertainty where conviction ought to be.

Some people might think that speaking with conviction requires us to use a certain voice, maybe one that is stronger, or louder than our own. However, I assert that conviction does not have to shout to be heard. It just has to come from a sincere and real place.

The American poet and teacher, Taylor Mali addresses the importance of speaking clearly and with conviction here. It is short, powerful and will make you smile.

My second thought is: If you want to learn something, discover something or build something, you must also listen with intention.

If speaking with conviction gets people’s attention and earns their confidence, Listening with intention will help us to keep it. This is the kind of listening that demands our total presence. Our intention must be to suspend judgment; to resist the temptation to interrupt; to fight our tendency to build arguments in our heads while someone is talking. It requires us to explore; to question and to rephrase. This kind of listening comes from a conscious decision to truly understand what is being said. It does not require us to agree but it provides the opportunity for meaningful discussion that can lead to breakthrough thinking and effective collaboration.

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When it comes to speaking with conviction and listening with intention, neither is easy. For me, at least, it is an ongoing challenge. But then, things worth pursuing usually are, aren’t they?

That’s what I think anyway.  What do you think?

Note: Originally posted in April, 2012

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Filed under communication, Leadership, Leadership Development

Communication: Four Occasions When It’s Best to Keep Quiet

Will Rogers once said, “Never miss a good chance to shut up”.

I think he has a point. Rarely though, do we consider that effective communication also means keeping quiet.   And yet, nothing can be more effective in reaching understanding than a well-placed pause, a time when we step back and listen, not only to others but also to ourselves.

It’s a discipline I think all leaders need to develop.  But first we have to be able to readily recognize when we are talking too much and listening too little and, as a result, eroding the depth and importance of our conversations.

So when might that happen to you? Well, I can think of a few occasions when it might and here they are:

When you’re angry ~(Subtext: I’m mad so I’m going to vent all over you so that I can feel better).

Anger sometimes compels us to put the mouth in gear before the brain has had time to process what’s going on. And that can make a bad situation worse.

Being on the receiving end of someone’s flare-up is also very off-putting and a sure-fire way of shutting down lines of communication altogether.

When you’re tempted to say any old thing to fill a void ~ (Subtext: I’m uncomfortable so I’m going to say something because somebody has to!)

Silence can be cringe-worthy.   For instance, in a meeting you put an idea up for discussion; you ask for some thoughts … and nothing happens. But, if you start talking just to relieve the tension, chances are, you are missing an opportunity to hear from someone who simply needs a little time to process the information before sharing his or her opinion.  So, tolerating pauses, pregnant or otherwise, could be a very positive discipline to develop.

When you’re convinced of your ‘rightness’ ~ (Subtext: I’m right and I’m going to keep on talking until you agree with me).

Sometimes we can fall in love with our own ideas so much that we make no space for the possibility that we may be wrong.  Clinging to a position and arguing its virtues can be great fun but if we are not willing to listen to others’ perspectives and soften the edges of our views in the face of new information, we become a roadblock to progress.

When you realize you don’t really know what you’re talking about ~ (Subtext: I’m lost but I’ll look like a fool if I stop talking now.)

Every once in a while I will embark on a line of conversation… and then lose the thread.  Instead of stopping to get re-focused, I will keep talking in the hope that eventually, I’ll get to the point.  I don’t think I’m particularly unique in this.  When it happens, it’s embarrassing but frankly so is taking people on a meander that you didn’t intend.  As for me, I find it helps to simply stop, mid-ramble, and admit that I have no idea where I was going.  We all have a laugh and get to move on to something more productive.

There is of course a common theme running through the occasions I’ve described.  Each of them is a self-indulgent response.  In communication, as in leadership, self-indulgence will get in the way of success every time.

That’s what I think anyway.  What do you think?

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Filed under communication, Leadership, Leadership Development, Leading Teams

Leaders: Speak with Conviction…Listen with Intention

Every now and then, I like to write about communication.  There are a couple of reasons for that.  The first is that the language we use has a lot to do with how others regard us.  And, in leadership, how we are regarded has a lot to do with the decisions people make about following us…or not.

The second reason is that the ease at which things get done in any organization often comes down to our ability to send and receive clear messages.

Like leadership, communication is a complex subject so I’m not going to try and simplify it. Nor do I have a list of do’s and don’ts that will cure our respective communication ills.

I have just two thoughts to share today.

One is: If you want people to believe in you and in what you say, speaking clearly and with conviction is a good place to start.

Language has always been littered with jargon.  As English is the only language in which I have any facility, I’m going to say that English is probably one of the worst offenders.   Over the past several years though, we have become even sloppier about how we choose to express ourselves.  We punctuate our sentences with a series of ‘likes’ and ‘okays’ that muddy our messages.  And, we have developed an annoying habit of turning statements into questions.  This latter habit is particularly troublesome and serves to invite uncertainty where conviction ought to be.

Some people might think that speaking with conviction requires us to use a certain voice, maybe one that is stronger, or louder than our own.  However, I assert that conviction does not have to shout to be heard.  It just has to come from a sincere and real place.

The American poet and teacher, Taylor Mali addresses the importance of speaking clearly and with conviction here.  It is short, powerful and will make you smile.

My second thought is: If you want to learn something, discover something or build something, you must also listen with intention.

If speaking with conviction gets people’s attention and earns their confidence, Listening with intention will help us to keep it.  This is the kind of listening that demands our total presence.  Our intention must be to suspend judgment; to resist the temptation to interrupt; to fight our tendency to build arguments in our heads while someone is talking.  It requires us to explore; to question and to rephrase.  This kind of listening comes from a conscious decision to truly understand what is being said.  It does not require us to agree but it provides the opportunity for meaningful discussion that can lead to breakthrough thinking and effective collaboration.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The truth is, when it comes to speaking clearly, with conviction and listening with intention, neither is easy.  For me, it is an ongoing challenge.  But then, things worth pursuing usually are, aren’t they?

What do you think?

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Filed under communication, Leadership, Leadership Development

Employee Engagement & the Magic of Remembering

In a number of my previous blog posts, I made reference to the importance of listening and how this enhances the efficacy of communication.  A lot of other people talk about it too.  And that’s a good thing.

But I’m wondering how much of the information we get from listening do we actually remember when we’d like to or need to?  Taking notes is one way to capture new information but frankly sometimes it just isn’t appropriate to break a conversation so that we can capture a thought, a name or an idea.  So often, we have to rely on what we remember.

Personally, that is a scary thought as my memory for some things is, well, awful.  A little research has enlightened me however to the possibility that it doesn’t have to be awful as long as I give it some regular exercise.  So why would I want to?

Here’s why.  There is magic in remembering.

Many years ago, when I was working as a Personnel Officer in the Head office of a very large organization, I was invited to attend a breakfast and listen to the President  & Chairman of the Board, talk about our goals and challenges. The organization employed at that time, something in the neighbourhood of 35,000 people worldwide and so you can imagine that the goals and challenges were significant.

Before we sat down to breakfast the Chairman took a turn about the room, which was hosting about 350 people.  Quite by accident, he happened upon me.  I introduced myself and we talked for a very brief time.  And then he moved on.

Well, we had breakfast and then the Chairman got up to speak.  He was eloquent in his description of the organizational goals and realistic when he described the challenges we faced.

And then the magic happened.  He said something like, “I was talking to Gwyn earlier and she reminded me of the importance of people to our organization”

Suddenly, I was no longer a blurred face in the crowd or a very small cog in a very large wheel.  I felt important.  I felt heard.  And I felt included.

He had remembered my name.

Remembering details, like people’s names, may seem like a small thing when we have so many other things competing for our time and attention.  But simple acts of acknowledgement are very powerful.  They make us want to participate.  They make us want to do better and be better.   And that is, to me at least, the essence of employee engagement.

Here’s a link to an article written by Molly Edmonds, called Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Memory.

I’m going to work on improving my memory.  How about you?

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Filed under Building Relationships, communication, Leadership Values, motivating & Inspiring, Self Knowledge